NBA Draft Day 2009

photos from Draft Express and the Hoops Report

Years ago I would meet with some friends at one of the larger bars in Manhattan to watch the NBA draft, mostly so I could lose my mind and start cussing into the air, in public, when, say, Marcus Camby was traded (with the rights to Nenê) for Frank Williams and a broken Antonio McDyess (who has, admittedly carved out quite a decent post-injury career for himself).

I think my friends just wanted to see what I did when the Knicks did something so very obviously bad for their future and salary cap.

The funny thing is that I have a lot more affection for the Nets, really, but the Knicks are what New Yorkers of my age grew up with - Patrick Ewing, the kind of physicality and slowdown style that facilitates rules changes, the haircut of Anthony Mason, the post-game interview voice of John Starks... so it's the Knicks I focus on when watching the draft. The Nets under Rod Thorn have made very good picks, from the Richard Jefferson year to Lopez and Anderson last year. They're not all gangbusters, but they get players who get on the court.

Some of the storylines going into tonight's NBA draft:

 

+ The Knicks might be looking to trade Quentin Richardson for Memphis' Darko Milicic... and may pick Gerald Henderson of Duke tonight. Apparently Coach Krzyzewski convinced Mike D'Antoni to sign free agent Chris Duhon, improving Duhon's nightlife options immeasurably... possibly to the detriment of the team (no evidence, just conjecture). I kind of would like Darko. He's not the second coming, but might be better under D'Antoni; he improved slightly in his scoring per 40 minutes last year. What else will the Knicks do to improve?

Ricky Rubio DKV Joventut+ Not a storyline per se, but Free Darko analyzes the model stylings of future draftees Hasheem Thabeet, Pretty Ricky Rubio, Stephen Curry, Tyler Hansbrough, and more.

+ Some guy named Shaquille O'Neal who is very large was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the expiring contracts of Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic. Basketball Prospectus thinks it is a poor trade, since O'Neal is a defensive liability and needs the ball to be effective... and he's not that effective anymore. And I like Zydrunas Ilgauskas's game next to LeBron (Z has some range and some post game)... I think the team needs something more impactful at the guard position. Casn they find a steal in the draft to keep Lebron in Cleveland?

+ Speaking of Basketball Prospectus, here are some statistical translations from Euroleague stats for Pretty Ricky Rubio, Brandon Jennings, Omri Casspi, and Sergio Llull, who I have not heard of. And while we're at it, here are translations for stateside players, ranking the guards in terms of WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player). Will these projections be correct? Is Nick Calathes a future NBA star?

Brandon Jennings Lottomatica Roma+ And then there's the Brandon Jennings thing. Ball in Europe talks about how Jennings' season was a net negative, a bust, and those numbers bear it out. Rough season for the youngster, even though Lottomatica Roma teammate Ibrahim Jabber likes his game in a long-winded post on True Hoop.

And he might be bitter now, but the benefits may be greater than simply showing that he can play and score. Lisa Olson writes on Jennings' study abroad year:

People who study these things for a living say he is certainly a top three talent, but then they add words like "mystery" and "enigma" and "bad attitude" to his dossier, and nobody knows quite where Jennings will land....

"It was tough," he says. "But I made a decision and I stuck with it. I like to think I matured as a man and as a player."

Thing is? Jennings is still talented, but he has to improve some parts of his game, according to scouting reports (the outside shot, the decision-making). And he's probably going to be drafted in the lottery. His experience will inform players like Jeremy Tyler that it is possible to go to Europe for basketball and come back, but it won't be like going to State U and playing 38 minutes a game, with Dick Vitale yammering how they are awesome-baby. And maybe that's a better fortune.

+ The last few days have been trade-crazy, with teams trying to get into position to get the impact players in what many feel is a weak (but possibly deep with role players?) draft. Richard Jefferson is happy to be "relevant again," and I am happy he is as well; part of that deal means forward Amir Johnson will go to Milwaukee; the Timberwolves got the #5 pick in the draft, along with some large bodies who hold down the chairs; 76ers are looking to the old school logo; and Tracy McGrady might find himself traded for a draft pick. Those Rockets played pretty well without him...

+ Who are going to be the sleepers and the busts? SI's Luke Winn looks at efficiency numbers in different scenarios... James Harden might have some work to do on his game in the faster-paced (than his Arizona State offense) NBA.

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